ACS Law hit notoriety for bullying broadband users into paying a fine in lieu of being taken to court for alleged “online copyright infringement”. Victims had no idea what their rights were and apparently frequently paid up rather than going through the expensive courts process.
It was reported yesterday that ACS Law had ceased trading – in order to avoid the potenial fines likely to arise out of the court action. Today they were apparently represented in court by a new barrister.
Reports from the court via twitter stream state:
- ACS Law has not been allowed to discontinue 27 cases it tried to drop last month.
- The judge today said letters to alleged filesharers “materially overstates the untested merits” of proving MediaCAT copyright infringement.
- Also Judge: “Media CAT and #ACSLaw have very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny ” because of revenue from from “wholesale letter writing”
- “I cannot imagine a system [speculative invoicing] better designed to create disincentives to test the issues in court”
- #acslaw #mediacat proceedings to continue in March
- Media Cat has to join with copyright holders within 14 days.
- If Media Cat does not the proceedings will be struck off, lawyers still angling for blocking of any future company reissuing cases
- Hearing (probably dealing with costs) on 16th March. No trial unless copyright owners get involved.
- Court still hasn’t identified all the copyright owners involved
The judgement has been posted online and includes some very interesting points:
“This question of unsecured internet connections and infringing by allowing others is a critical one since Media CAT’s monitoring exercise cannot and does not purport to identify the individual who actually did anything.”
“Media CAT’s case on this is in two parts. Of course Media CAT cannot know who actually used the P2P software, so in paragraph 3 of the Particulars of Claim they plead that the software was used either by the named defendant who was identified by the ISP, or by someone they authorised to use the internet connection or someone who gained access to the internet connection due to the router having no or no adequate security. Then in paragraph 5 the plea is that in the premises the defendant has by himself, or by allowing others to do so, infringed. So taken together these two paragraphs show that the Particulars of Claim is pleaded on the basis that one way or another the defendant must be liable for the infringement which is taking place.”
“In my judgment, in the light of the material now available and the parties’ submissions, the letter of claim does misrepresent Media CAT’s standing to bring proceedings. The letter also relies on the untested point about IP addresses.”
“…the letter materially overstates the untested merits of Media CAT’s approach to showing that “one way or another” the named recipient is liable for infringement (the Saccharin point).”
“Wider issues – this kind of Norwich Pharmacal order – I cannot imagine that the court making the Norwich Pharmacal orders in this case did so with a view to setting in train an exercise that was to be conducted in the manner that has subsequently emerged.”
These are major points that the government and Ofcom should note in their deliberations as to the proportianality of the Digital Economy Act. In fact there are so many relevant legal points in the judgement that I can’t do them all justice in this post – you need to read the source here.
The judge gave MediaCAT and the copyright owners 14 days to join together in the action in court otherwise the cases would be struck off.
YouTube article/feature on ACS:Law. In it Andrew Crossley of ACSLaw claims that between 15% and 40% of those threatened with court action paid up.
The ACSLaw website was taken down some time ago. The domain name acslaw.com takes you to a totally different firm called Ottone Leach Olsen & Ray in California who presumably bought it recently (??) because their main url seems to be olorlaw.com. I guess all publicity is good publicity in their case.
Thanks to @WillTovey and @DinahGreek for their live tweets from the courtroom. Also to @ShipleyIP for the link to the judgement.